Barbecoa, Jamie’s latest venture in the snazzy One New Change with barbecue supremo Adam Perry Lang. I ended up here on a business lunch on a rather drab and dreary day, where I had, embarrassingly, forgotten the name of the person I had come here to meet. Call it a brain fuddled by a toddler’s midnight honking. Never mind I thought, ask the front of house for the midday bookings, and they were nice enough to tell us without as much of a smirk on their faces as they led us to the bar.
Did you know that the hang all their meat on the premises? There’s even a butcher attached to the restaurant where they hawk all sorts of mouth watering cuts like £70 per kilo wagyu, from Wales in fact. The meats are also sourced in the U.K. so that earns brownie points with me for keeping it local.
On the way to the bar, the layout reminded me of supermarkets, you know where they make you walk past every item that’s available before you find the item you want, but in a mouth watering sort of way. The view of the kitchens is quite a sight. Everything is wood burning, proper barbecue stuff, and there’s very little gas and electric here. There’s the wine rack that takes up nearly an entire wall and before you get to the bar you finally notice the furniture that wouldnt look out of place in an American diner, you know, like the one in happy days.
Very kitsch, but it’s a very good idea. We’re in the heart of the city and I think an overbearing sense of formality tends to plague most high end eateries here. You feel like you have to be on your best behaviour. The vibe of this place isn’t so prim and proper. It’s a lot more relaxed.
The table we sat at was flanked on one side by a sofa, and it had an Ed’s Easy Diner feel to it. Being of hobbit proportions I don’t really fit in these sofas very well at all so it made for an uncomfortable seat. If I leant back it took me so far away from the conversation and if I sat forwards my chest would lean against the table. As we talked shop, a steady stream of edible works went past. I had to ask the waiting staff what things were a few times.
It was at this point when Barbecoa did what I least expected, it surprised me. When I asked what the chef recommended, our waiter at first took the party line, remarking that the steaks, the flagship dishes were all very good, but then he added in a most conspiratorial way, that the American back ribs were really where it was at. Steaks are popular, crowd pleasers. Steakhouses are a dime a dozen in London, but what’s you can’t get to a decent standard are these American style grills, my back ribs would be slow cooked for hours until succulent, and almost falling off the bone. You couldn’t apparently, get this anywhere else.
I was pretty much sold on the idea of the ribs, but let me start where all sensible storytellers start, at the beginning.
Starter was crispy calamari on some mashed avocado. This was fresh and well cooked, being just tender without being rubbery and it was fresh. This rekindled my faith in crispy squid since the disappointment some weeks ago. The combination of squid and avocado is one that I’m going to have to remember, these flavours go well together. If you were a food snob, and I am one some of the time, you could argue that crispy calamari is a bit of a drab and simple starter for a place like Barbecoa, but at any good gig, the support band always knows better than to upstage the headliners.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the ribs when they arrived. They were succulent in places, dry in others, something slow cooking can often do to meat, but it did indeed fall off the bone with very little persuasion from me. They tasted of Florida, and reminded me of American grills, but without the mess of drippy sauce. The bed of mash it was on had spring onions in it, something I’ll have to remember for when I next do mash with meat. Watercress somehow set the whole dish off. Whilst it wasn’t quite what’s I expected, it went together like a very good whole.
For dessert I went for something simple, a panna cotta, and. I loved it, wobbly, vanilla-ey and delicious. It rounded the meal off wonderfully. By not having very flashy starters or desserts, the mains take centre stage, and you inevitably leave remembering those being the centrepiece of your meal. Perhaps it’s the whole point of it.
I liked dining here. It’s got a nice atmosphere and vibe to it, but I can’t help feeling that that’s what you’re paying for. The food’s pretty good, but it didn’t quite deliver considering all that it promises given the price. It’s a good place to go to if you want an all-round dining experience but I thought for the price you could probably get knockout food elsewhere.